The Ties that Bind: Distinction, Recognition and the Relational

By Mark Murphy.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The ‘relational’ as a theoretical category has a strong history in sociology, no more so than in the work of Pierre Bourdieu. His well-known assertion that the ‘real is relational’ is evident in his emphasis on distinction as a crucial mechanism of social reproduction, a mechanism that illuminates the relational aspects of class and the ways in which social classes are active in their own classification. Given that class is arguably a relational concept par excellence, what Bourdieu has done to a large extent is deliver on the promise of class as a concept; he has put the ‘classifying’ into class.

What has not yet been done successfully, however, is the same for Bourdieu – to deliver on the promise of his avowed relational constructs, and explore in more detailed ways the importance of relations and relationships to people’s class trajectories. The current paper argues that, for such a task to be fulfilled, it requires a shift of emphasis away from vertical forms of relation, to more ‘horizontal’ forms. In effect, it requires the fleshing out of Bourdieu’s latent intersubjective analysis of social and cultural life. One way of expanding this relational geography can be found in the work of Axel Honneth and his emphasis on intersubjective recognition as the basis of social interaction. The purpose of the current paper is to explore this interplay between notions of recognition and distinction, and identify implications for, in particular, debates over agency and ambivalent class identities.

Keywords: Distinction, Recognition, Relational

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 5, Issue 10, pp.103-116. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 646.026KB).

Dr. Mark Murphy

Senior Lecturer in Education, Faculty of Education and Children's Services, University of Chester, Chester, Cheshire, UK

Dr. Mark Murphy is a Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Chester. His current research interests include accountability in education, educational sociology and social theory, the politics of public sector reform, the critical theory of Jürgen Habermas and Axel Honneth, political economy, lifelong learning and EU social policy.

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